Dear Diary, It gets better. Or: Joyfully denominational in a post-denominational world. Or: Day 3 at Wild Goose

Dear Diary,

The last full day of the Wild Goose Festival was as full as a day can be of great conversation, music, sunshine, and more. Highlights of today were

If I weren’t so exhausted I could write for hours.  Instead, I’ll just write about one thing.

During the first evening, Nadia Bolz-Weber explained Christian denominationalism this way: she said that each strand of Christianity “care-takes” one aspect of what it means to be Christian for the whole body. For example, Anabaptists and Mennonites are the caretakers of the peace tradition for the whole body, which does not mean that the rest of us don’t work for peace but rather that there’s an emphasis there that creates identity and serves the whole body. Similarly, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Roman Catholics are caretakers of ancient liturgy on behalf of the whole body. I’d never heard it put that way, but it makes perfect sense, right? And of course we Episcopalians are all about ancient liturgy. That’s our thing, right?

So, this afternoon and evening, the huge undercurrent of pain and tension in this festival finally hit me, an undercurrent of which I’d hitherto been blissfully ignorant because….well, because I’m an Episcopalian. This painful tension is one of the marks of “emergence Christianity” as it manifests in non-mainline churches, that is, in the evangelical tradition all along the spectrum from conservative to progressive and beyond. It’s all about sexuality. Not just same-sex marriage, not just LGBTQ people in church leadership, but the whole ball of wax: does God’s grace extend, or does God’s grace not extend, to EVERYONE? My sense is that 99% of folks here at Wild Goose believe that it does extend to all, but many of them continue in churches and faith strands whose leaders are not so sure.

So, in addition to ancient liturgical tradition and sacramental theology, there’s something else the Episcopal Church care-takes on behalf of other parts of the body, care-takes with the care with which someone might hold something delicate and unfamiliar, for some, unsought. I felt proud, on Day 3, to stand up in an emotionally charged conversation about LGBTQ rights and social justice and say that as Episcopalians, we’ve been there, done that and, to borrow a phrase, it gets better. I know that some of my friends will say we’re not as far along as we could be or should be, but in our own institutional, hierarchical, tradition-laden way, we are, with blessed assurance, on the right trajectory. I want my friends at this amazing event to know that they are, too, and that it gets better, it really does.

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